A Scent of New Beginnings

by Marie J

We all know smells trigger vivid memories, but can a memory trigger a smell?

Results day. I hadn’t suffered the adversities of school since May’s exams, nevertheless, here I was now, dragging my feet back up the drive, first thing on a Thursday morning. Even the odours that had surrounded the buildings still remain, and revoke vivid memories of the time I spent here. Five tables furnish the dusty school hall, one for each registration group. The fresh smell of newly printed paper surrounds each desk, and those fifteen letters on each paper reminds of the past and foretells the future of every student in the hall today. Mine prophesises whether or not I'll get that job as a writer, or an architect. The faint whiff of wood combined with ink deciphers nature's purity invaded by the dark splurges of man's imperfections and with it, all the memories return.

It's my first day of high school all over again, and the unavoidable stench of polythene, that had imprisoned each jumper since early June, pervades each classroom. The tang of toothpaste merged with that of what I already had for breakfast; minty orange juice? The thought even now makes me pucker, and pull a face at the scent of my own breath, back then. Yet toothpaste overwhelms all else, eventually. For a while afterwards, my nose is paralysed; the slightest sniff pushes icy air into my brain and brings tears to my eyes; no fragrance this time, just cold. And I'm surprised that I can breathe at all when the tie my mother helped me with that morning has since cut off my airways.

Nothing has been “cooked” here since July, either; yet the stench of pungent cabbage chokes my senses; and I needn’t even be in the canteen. Then comes the turn of that musty, putrid odour, to remind me of that classroom I spent detentions in, which never seemed to be cleaned.

Or even a smell as obscure and as gut wrenching as that of oil. Every evening, my father, a mechanic, would pick me up from school to take me home in his work’s car. The thick stench of petrol invaded my nostrils every time, making me heave in disgust and lingering long after the journey had ended. The stinging sensation in my eyes retired only after several watery blinks, later that evening.

Result's day is a memoir that forever will be etched into my mind, each sniff bringing yet another memory to relive. However, I guess, when you’re fifteen, almost every smell brings back a reminder of school, unless of course, it’s Grandma’s cooking, which leads you on a memorial trail of it’s own…

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